Dana White always yells at the media and fans to, “not judge the fights until after they happen.” While that’s a pretty blind way at looking at things, Dana turned out to be correct in this instance. UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch didn’t have the most exciting card to date but the fights delivered and in the end, that’s about all you can ask for. I’m also under the belief that UFC put on a weak card in Australia knowing that they could send Brittney Palmer to the beach in her bikini, have pictures end up online, and that would be more than enough to make up for the card just in case the fights weren’t all that great.
Jon Fitch and BJ Penn fought to a Majority Draw (29-28, 28-28, 28-28)
In a fight to determine the next welterweight title contender, Jon Fitch and BJ Penn fought to a draw and showed that maybe they both deserve to be the top contender.
Penn surprised many at the start of this fight by immediately going for a takedown. While he didn’t succeed, he gave Fitch something else to think about during the fight. They went back and fourth in the clinch, landing knees and short punches, but Penn eventually got the takedown he was looking for. Penn ended up getting the back of Fitch and came close to finishing with a rear naked choke but Fitch, showing why he has some of the best submission defense in the sport, survived and turned into the guard of Penn. Penn was quickly up though and they went back into the clinch. It was a close round but Penn had the more dominant position and considering no one took control of the clinch, I gave it to Penn. The second round was more of the same except that Fitch controlled the clinch more. Penn got the takedown though, got the back again, and once again almost had the choke but Fitch again turned into guard. This time around though, Fitch battered Penn a bit on the ground before Penn could get up. It was another close round but Fitch did more overall damage and had longer control overall so I gave it to him. Even if you thought Penn had won the round, momentum seemed to be in Fitch’s favor. Fitch started the third round by landing a good right hand and then getting a takedown. Penn got up but Fitch put him right back down. For the next four minutes and some change, it was all Fitch. He landed a plethora of elbows and punches that Penn simply had no answer for. Penn tried a triangle at one point but Fitch easily shrugged it off and continued to pound on Penn with elbows, hammerfists, and punches. As the fight ended, Fitch celebrated while Penn looked dejected. The end result was about as satisfying as Josh Brolin’s death in No Country For Old Men though as the judges ruled things a majority draw with one judge giving the fight to Fitch and the other two scoring things a draw.
For the better part of 10 minutes, Penn showed why everyone considers him one of the most complete fighters in MMA. He essentially fought Fitch’s fight when he decided to come out and go for the takedown and he faired well. He put Fitch down, he got his back, he was an inch or so away from finishing, and he took limited damage. The problem with this strategy was that Fitch is a master at fighting the fight Penn wanted and when Penn couldn’t put him away, he faded while Fitch grew stronger. The funny thing is, had Penn just been competitive in the third round, he would have ended up with a split decision victory. In his post-fight interview, Penn clearly knew he had lost the fight and was given a gift from the MMA God’s. Penn seemed very down after the fight and while I understand why, I don’t think he has much to be ashamed of. Granted he took a beating in the third round but that’s what happens when you get into a grinding fight with Fitch and you’re not used to doing so. No matter who Penn fights next, he needs to bring back Marv Marinovich to help his conditioning. He went over 20 minutes against Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian, and granted he was in control most of the fight, and never looked tired. If he fights Fitch again, and I think he will although the number of rounds will depend on the outcome of Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields, he definitely needs to improve his conditioning. Above all else, Penn just needs to rediscover his passion. He was very down after the fight, which is understandable considering he just got beat up in a bad way in the preceding five minutes, but he’s a guy that fights on passion. Honestly, if Penn can’t get passionate about being the first guy to finish Fitch in the UFC should they rematch, maybe he shouldn’t be fighting.
I’m sure a lot of people are going to slam Fitch for not finishing Penn but this isn’t the fight to criticize Fitch for not finishing. Only one person has finished Penn inside of three rounds and in the third round, Fitch was as active as he’s ever been on the ground with his strikes. Not only that but how many people have survived with Penn on their back not once, but twice? This was Fitch’s best performance since losing to St. Pierre and unfortunately it only resulted in a draw for him. If I’m Fitch, I welcome the rematch against Penn with open arms, especially if it’s for the vacant welterweight title. Had this fight gone another 10 minutes, it would have been almost identical to the third round and at worst Fitch would have won another decision. A lot hinges on St. Pierre vs. Shields though. If St. Pierre wins, moves up to middleweight, and vacates the welterweight title then Fitch vs. Penn 2 for the vacant title makes sense. If Shields wins though, I wouldn’t mind Fitch getting a title shot although that won’t happen since he’s coming off a draw. Depending on how Shields wins will determine a lot because if it’s a close decision, St. Pierre will probably get an immediate rematch but if Shields finishes St. Pierre, just give Fitch the title shot. The guy has done plenty to earn it.
Predicted Next Fights: Fitch vs. Penn 2
Michael Bisping defeated Jorge Rivera by TKO (Strikes) at 1:54 in Round Two
The trash talking didn’t stop until long after the fight was over but Michael Bisping had the last word against Jorge Rivera.
This fight reminded me of the Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar iron man match from WWE Smackdown in September 2003. Now before you lambast me for comparing a MMA fight to a pro wrestling match, read me out. In that match, Lesnar intentionally got himself disqualified early in the match by beating Angle with a chair. It allowed Angle to take an early lead on the scorecards but it also wore him down and allowed Lesnar to take over the match, a match that he eventually won. Starting to make sense now? Bisping was winning the fight early with his takedowns but then he threw an illegal knee to the head of Rivera, that had Rivera badly dazed for at least the rest of the round. Bisping’s punishment was a one point deduction, which ended up making the round a draw, but the damage was far worse for Rivera. Now I don’t want to say that Bisping’s game plan was to illegally hurt Rivera early but the knee he landed was about as intentional as they come considering that Rivera still had both knees on the ground when Bisping landed the strike and then Bisping proceeded to yell at Rivera to get up along with playing to the crowd. Rivera eventually did get up and managed to survive the round, even if he hadn’t completely recovered. Rivera started the second round strong, landing a good right hand but then he went head hunting and that’s when Bisping took over. He peppered Rivera with a flurry of punches, elbows, and knees until Rivera, who had been covering well, eventually collapsed to the canvas. Bisping followed up his stoppage victory by spitting at Rivera’s corner, asking Rivera to apologize, and then saying, “Go home loser.” You stay classy, Michael.
Rivera trolled his way into a co-main event and he did his best but we all knew that Rivera was a mid-level fighter with a powerful right hand and not much else. The illegal knee obviously affected his mindset and took him out of his game but Bisping was getting takedowns with ease and Bisping wasn’t going to slow down while Rivera’s cardio has always been rather questionable. Rivera is getting up there in age and it’s doubtful that he improves his skillset so he’ll just continue to be a guy who will win some fights and lose some fights, you just hope they are exciting fights. As long as he keeps fighting strikers, he’ll probably have exciting fights. I would advise Rivera to stop making pre-fight videos though and if he’s going to do so, try to make them a little funnier.
This was your typical Bisping performance except that he put his opponent away. He threw a lot one-two combos, he got tagged with the right hand, he got some takedowns, and that was about it. It’s a style that’s going to beat a lot of guys but it’s not going to cut it against the very top guys. To Bisping’s credit, he did finish Rivera, which is what a good fighter would have done, but of course it took an illegal knee and a heavy dose of strikes before Rivera went down and even then Rivera wasn’t knocked clean out. Bisping needs a top fighter in his next fight and right now the internet is buzzing about a potential fight with Chael Sonnen. I say make it happen. If the trash talking Rivera did got Bisping upset, just imagine how he’ll react to Sonnen’s trash talk. The only difference is that Sonnen will be able to back his mouth up. And it’s not like Bisping doesn’t have plenty of mud to sling Sonnen’s way either. If I could give any advice to Bisping it would be to just completely drop the nice guy act. The guy is an obvious prick and he showed that with his post-fight actions. He only apologized because he knew Dana White would give him a tongue-lashing but it wasn’t very sincere. The guys a prick, he’s always been a prick, and he’ll always be a prick. It’s not an act like Josh Koscheck, who is just trying to sell a fight but is actually a really nice guy. Bisping is just a prick. I’m fine with that as long as he stops pretending otherwise.
Predicted Next Fights: Rivera vs. Sakara/Weidman winner – Bisping vs. Sonnen
Dennis Siver defeated George Sotiropoulos by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-28, 30-27)
Dennis Siver put George Sotiropoulos’ title hopes on hold and silenced the Australian crowd with the best performance of his career.
The story of this fight was Siver’s takedown defense against Sotiropoulos’ takedown attempts. In the first round Sotiropoulos has Siver hoping around on one leg but he couldn’t find a way to get him to the ground. Siver capitalized on Sotiropoulos’ inability to get the fight to the ground by landing a couple of left hooks that put Sotiropoulos down to the mat. While Siver couldn’t finish either time, he made a huge statement in the opening stanza. Still not able to get things on the ground Sotiropoulos started to find his rhythm on the feet in the second round. He began working the jab and putting a good right hand behind it. He was also ultilizing better movement as Siver had a tough time connecting with anything clean in the round. It was a close round but Sotiropoulos seemed busier of the two. The third round was largely the same until the final two minutes or so when Siver started landing a much stiffer jab of his own and some good body kicks. On top of his striking, Siver continued to stuff the takedowns of Sotiropoulos with relative ease. Sotiropoulos held his own on the feet against the hyped “best striker in the division” but Siver landed the more damaging blows throughout, highlighted by his left hooks in the first round.
Many people are saying that Sotiropoulos should have never been in this fight because Siver wasn’t a worthy opponent but if that were true then Sotiropoulos would have won and dominated. Maybe it was poor match making but I think it was for the best. If Sotiropoulos wasn’t good enough to beat Siver then he wasn’t good enough to be fighting for the title. Sotiropoulos couldn’t get the fight to the ground and that’s what did him in. He had his chances as he timed a lot of kicks perfectly but Siver was just too slippery. Maybe Sotiropoulos should have tried shooting to the body more and driving Siver into the cage but he kept going after the legs. Daniel Cormier tweeted after the fight that Sotiropoulos needs to visit American Kickboxing Academy citing that, “too much space when trying to finish takedowns. We can fix that in a week.” I hope someone near George is paying attention to that because I’d jump at that offer. They could also teach him to throw more kicks because when you’re as good on the ground as he is, you can throw as many kicks as you want and not worry if the fight goes to the ground. Sotiropoulos will be back and he’ll probably be better than ever. He should get a good fighter as well, maybe the winner of Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson since Bocek had previously called him out and Henderson is almost unsubmittable.
Siver appears to be pretty legit. He’s almost like the Thiago Alves of the lightweight division given his striking skills, takedown defense, and stocky build. The takedown defense and balanced he displayed against Sotiropoulos was absolutely incredible. Sotiropoulos had him bouncing on one leg at one point in the fight and yet Siver remained upright. Sotiropoulos isn’t the strongest wrestler in the division but the way Siver shucked him away with ease was extremely impressive. Siver might not be the best striker in the lightweight division like UFC hype videos claim (lets not forget that he lost a striking battle to Ross Pearson less than a year ago) but if he tags you with that left hook, you’re going to feel it. Siver may not have earned his fight against Sotiropoulos but he definitely earned another high profile fight with this victory. The winner of Jim Miller vs. Kamal Shalorus seems like the most logical option for Siver. It’s a big fight and it will really test his takedown defense given the wrestling prowess of both men.
Predicted Next Fights: Sotiropoulos vs. Bocek/Henderson winner – Siver vs. Miller/Shalorus winner
Brian Ebersole defeated Chris Lytle by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Finally make his UFC debut after over 60 professional fights, Brian Ebersole showed that good things come to those who wait with an impressive performance over the always tough Chris Lytle.
If you like non-stop activity, this was the fight for you. Ebersole opened the fight with a cartwheel kick and things just escalated from there. Lytle was constantly looking for the right hand on the feet while Ebersole was throwing some good leg kicks and looking to get the fight down. Every time Ebersole went for a takedown, Lytle would try and grab a guillotine, and while it looked close a couple of times, he could never quite finish it off. Lytle continued his submission attempt onslaught in the first round, going for kneebars and kimuras but couldn’t secure anything. The second round looked to be going the same way until Ebersole rocked Lytle with a huge knee. Ebersole followed up with a tight choke attempt but, proving that he’s impossible to finish, Lytle survived the round. The activity continued in the third round as Lytle kept winging his right hand while Ebersole kept pushing him against the cage, controlling long periods in the clinch, and landing takedowns. It was a very exciting fight and in the end, the arrow carved in Ebersole’s chest represented the direction his hand went, that being up.
Lytle is who he is. He’ll make every fight exciting, he’ll beat a lot of guys, and he’ll lose to really good guys. I’m not sure if Ebersole is going to be a really good guy but he was good enough to beat Lytle this past Saturday night. I don’t think Lytle took Ebersole lightly or anything like that, I just think Ebersole wanted it more and when Lytle briefly went limp from that knee in the second, that was the turning point of the fight. Lytle’s conditioning is always going to be questioned because he throws everything he has into his right hand and he goes 100% for submissions but again, that’s what makes him who he is. He’s going to be the gatekeeper of the welterweight division probably until he retires and he going to keep putting on entertaining fights.
It took a long time for Ebersole to finally make his octagon debut but he made the most of it. The most impressive thing about Ebersole’s performance was that he not only fought a winning fight, he fought an entertaining fight. He didn’t hang around on the feet too long but when he did, he made sure to throw wacky strikes and make hand gestures. Then in the clinch and on the ground he just controlled Lytle and escaped every submission Lytle went for. He also rocked Lytle for quite possibly the first time in Lytle’s career. Beating a guy like Lytle earns you a big fight so Ebersole should get Lytle’s original opponent in his next bout, that being Carlos Condit.
Predicted Next Fights: Lytle vs. Hardy/Johnson loser – Ebersole vs. Condit
Kyle Noke defeated Chris Camozzi by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:35 in Round One
Kyle Noke kicked off the main card in style and gave the Aussie crowd something to cheer about by making quick work of Chris Camozzi.
There wasn’t much to this fight. Camozzi came out throwing kicks, Noke responded with a flurry, and then he followed that up with a takedown right into mount. From there it looked like Noke was going for a mounted triangle but he either over stepped or had other plans and as Camozzi tried to scramble up, Noke got his back and quickly locked in a rear naked choke for the victory. It was essentially a star making performance for Noke as he looked impressive and earned a big cheer from his home country.
Back to the prelims for Camozzi. I’m really not sure just how good Camozzi is given the quick nature of this fight and that I thought he lost against Dong Yi Yang. He seems like he’ll be competitive against strikers but dominated against good wrestlers and grapplers. For his sake I hope he gets to fight a striker next but when it comes to preliminary match making, it’s tough to figure how things will shake out.
As I said in my UFC 127 Walk Out, Noke is the most talented of the Ultimate Fighter 11 alumni who didn’t win. While a win over Camozzi isn’t the most impressive victory in the world, the way Noke did it was very impressive. His hands looked sharp and his ground game was outstanding. Now it’s time to see what Noke really has though. A fight against a tough wrestler like the winner of Dan Miller vs. Nick Catone will really test Noke’s all-around skills to see if he’s ready for the next step or if he needs a bit more time.
Predicted Next Fights: Camozzi vs. Branch/Palhares loser – Noke vs. Miller/Catone winner
While the main event ending didn’t leave fans very satisfied, overall this was a very good card that probably surpassed the low expectations many people had for it. While I don’t recommend UFC give us weak cards in hopes that they over-deliver in the future, things worked out for them this time around.
The next big event is UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann so be prepared for The Walk Out.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC